Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Three Hundredth Post! Warning - Heavy Birding Content

I was just logging in and noticed that since the inception of my blog, I've made 300 posts. Whee!

Today was a birding marathon for us at Estero Llano (pronounced ya-no) Grande State Park south of Weslaco, TX - about 100km west of us in South Padre Island. The name means 'Big Estuary Plain'. It is a lovely birding spot where 299 species of birds have been spotted, many unique to south Texas.

Unfortunately my photos left a lot to be desired (mmm - they stunk) and my camera battery died by about 11:30am so I am posting what few pictures I got, will steal a few images from Google Images and will link to images from elsewhere on the Internet.
We had to leave SPI early (7am) in order to get to the park in time to take the morning birding walking tour at 8:30. There were about 50 of us assembled for our guided walk. With our tour guide, we were able to access parts of the park that are out of bounds for unescorted visitors to the park. We did spot several unique birds, such as the Tropical Parula, the Black-throated Magpie Jay (I had seen the White-throated Magpie Jay in Costa Rica a few years back) and probably my 'bird of the day' the Rose-throated Becard. We also spotted a some Golden-fronted Woodpeckers,

a Chachalaca, Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Common Pauraque

a couple of Inca Doves, and an Indigo Snake.

After a 'comfort stop' back at the park office, the group then headed in the other direction to Alligator Pond, Kiskadee Lane and up onto the levee adjacent to the estuary. On this walk, we spotted Pied-bill and Least Grebes,

Pied-bill grebe photo by Michael L. Baird

Northern Shovelers, a Cinnamon Teal, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants,


White-faced Ibis, White-tailed Kites, Soras, Solitary and Least Sandpipers, a Vermilion Flycatcher, a couple of Belted Kingfishers,

Photo by Michael L. Baird

Great Kiskadees, Red-winged Blackbirds and a Couch's Kingbird. About 2 feet from one of our paths we had an amazing view of another Common Pauraque. It was just hunkered down with its eyes closed. Its camoflage was very effective as it just looked like a pile of leaves. It wasn't until we looked through binoculars or the spotting scope that one could see that the 'leaves' were indeed feathers. We also spotted two alligators

and a spiny lizard.

After leaving the park for lunch, we returned (our $4 per person admission was for the whole day) for a foray on our own with our own spotting scope and retraced the second of our morning walks. We went back and took a good look at the Common Pauraque again and had a good look up on the levee at the American Avocets and Roseate Spoonbills. We also got another good look at both the Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers

and the brilliantly coloured Vermilion Flycatcher. There were also Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals in the same pond as Coots, Moorhens, a Great Egret, a Reddish Egret, Northern Shovelers and two Soras.

Photo by Michael L. Baird

We really enjoyed poking along at our own pace and taking as long as we wanted to look through our scope.

After 7 hours of birding we made our way back to SPI and enjoyed a meal at Daddy's - a local fish place. Tomorrow will be a lazy day.

I even got some knitting done in the car this morning.

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